Avengers Endgame: The Sacrifices for the End of a Saga
Updated: May 9, 2019
Superhero movies are the cinematic trend of the 21st century. Since 2000’s X-men, arguably the first superhero motion picture to quick start a new era in theaters, superheroes have found themselves ever increasingly pictured in the mainstream media from being featured in advertisements to winning Oscars. With the release of the Sam Raimi's Spiderman and The Dark Knight trilogy, once icons of only a portion of the population (mainly of the so-called Nerds) became idols of many more people. A whole new generation grew up with these flicks, be it kids or teens, and adults that once watched Batman and Superman when they were younger got to experience the same feelings of excitement and joy once again.
However, it can it is conceivable that it was Marvel Studios that ignited the fire of superhero fame. The way they approached the translation of stories from the comics to the big screen, the combination of lightheartedness and earnest drafted into each script and developed by each actor, and the intricate connections and references between each movie woven into a singular grand story gave Marvel movies their own identity, one that resonated super well with the public. It all began with 2008’s Iron Man, lead by a previously troubled actor that after letting go of his past, got the opportunity to play this B-list character. And oh boy, it is incredible how Robert Downey Jr. revamped Tony Stark into a sometimes arrogant, charismatic, smart, and resilient unlikely hero with a character arch of self-sacrifice. It gave new life to him, one that comics struggled to write. After Iron Man was a success, making $585,174,222 in the global box office, Kevin Feige (the head producer of Marvel Studios) and crew got the green light to expand the future of Marvel motion pictures. Then, one year and a half later, Disney bought the studio, giving a parent company for it and more resources for the production, marketing, and branding of MCU (Marvel Cinematic Universe). And now, after 11 years of unique storytelling and a lot of money making, Avengers Endgame arrives in theaters to end what Iron Man began: the Infinity Saga and Marvel movies as we know it.
Firstly, what is the purpose of Endgame? For readers not much aware of Marvel movies in general with not a lot of knowledge about Avengers Endgame, the motion picture was developed to end the first saga of the MCU while paying tribute to all the Marvel stories that came before it through cameos, callbacks, and well pieced together easter eggs. It is a celebration, a love letter, a gift, and a masterpiece all in one. Moreover, if it is not generally known, Marvel movies are developed in phases. Until now, fans have accompanied three phases: Phase 1 from Iron Man to The Avengers, Phase 2 from Iron Man 3 to Ant-Man, and Phase 3 from Captain America: Civil War to Spiderman: Far from Home. Even though Endgame does not finish Phase 3, it closes the door of what is called the Infinity Saga, a whole narrative arc focused on the character development of the Avengers, the Infinity Stones and the always looming threat of Thanos, while Far from Home sets up a little bit of the future of Marvel. With this information out of the way, let us move on to the exploration of my thoughts about the movie.
If you have watched Endgame, you may agree that the movie is a spectacle hardly ever appreciated before. The boldness and mastery required to tailor such experience the movie both promises and presents is most of what makes it so successful, already garnering 1.2 billion dollars worldwide in its first weekend. The combination of every MCU story into one single event that gave everything fans expected, if not more, is the staple of both knowing how to piece together a seemingly complicated story and pleasing spectators all the same. The challenge of directors Antony and Joe Russo was to build a movie featuring a nod to every plotline and character of the MCU to date while being coherent as a feature-length and true to the Marvel formula. The difficulty of this Herculean labor and the pressure the directors received to deliver the most fantastic superhero flick ever were not a match to the visionary views and cinematographic skills of the duo. Not only the story emotionally and cleverly ended Thanos, Captain America, Black Widow, and Iron Man's arcs, it depicted one of the most insanely terrific actions scenes in cinematic history.
Through time travel, the Avengers that survived Thanos’ snap recovered the six Infinity Stones, revisiting several past movies like Guardians of the Galaxy Vol.1, The Avengers, and Thor: The Dark World, and sacrifices were made because of them. Black Widow died so Hawkeye could collect the Soul Stone in a scene that reflects the emotional weight of Gamora’s death in Infinity Wars, but presents so much more as Black Widow finally proves to herself that her past as a ruthless assassin is no longer who she is; Natasha is actually a hero. She even says to Hawkeye “I don’t judge people for their worst mistakes” after Clint told her he has killed mercilessly many as Ronan, a line that shows how Black Widow forgives her best friend for his anger after his family disappeared but still does not forgive herself. For her, the sacrifice would be the turning point.
But, Tony Stark’s sacrifice to save the universe in the final act was the trump card of the movie. In a touching and eye teary moment, one that satisfactorily ends his arc, Tony takes the stones from past Thanos new gauntlet (made by Iron Man himself) and snaps his finger, ultimately erasing his army and the villain himself. The villain’s demise is a bright reflection of his previous victory, an end fit of a man that once thought the universe needed equilibrium but after discovering that as long as life prevails to remember the fallen balance cannot be attained, became blinded by hubris and tried murdering the whole cosmos instead. The “Mad Titan” moment represents the faltering of Thanos’ ideology and thus of his character in general, something that puts Downey Jr.’s character in full contrast as the ultimate hero. Tony began the MCU as a arms dealer, a bringer of death of sorts. But after understanding the responsibility of being Iron Man in The Avengers when he flew a nuclear bomb to outer space, protecting Earth at all costs became his number one mission. He foolishly thought robots surveilling the planet would be a good idea to fight any exoteric threat (Ultron was surely a mistake) and signed the Sokovia accords so heroes could be held accountable for the collateral damage of their actions. The survival of others became his number one priority, and even Pepper Potts had to understand it, something key for the reunion of both characters at the end of Homecoming. Therefore, following the unforgettable line “ I… am… Iron Man” and the snap, Tony could not handle the amount of energy of all the stones combined and died as Pepper says “We are going to be ok. You can rest now”, accepting who Tony was always meant to be.
What about Captain America? How was Chris Evan’s last moments as the hero? Wonderfully touching. Since The First Avenger, Steve Roger has been portrayed as the best of humankind. Cap is selfless, honorable, kind, and a great leader, he has a high moral compass, and he cannot fathom the arbitrary loss of life as is illustrated in his famous quote to Vision “We don’t trade lives.” The whole idea of being frozen for 70 years is due to him sacrificing his life to prevent New York from being exploded by a HYDRA bomber. Even in the wake of Civil War, Steve tries his best to stay true to his roots siding with his compassion towards his best friend Bucky even after discovering the latter was once a Soviet Spy who killed Tony’s parents. So in Endgame, spectators see Captain America fighting tirelessly to bring the snapped back and most importantly, against Thanos. Even after having his recently recovered shield broken, Steve rises, gritting his teeth in anger and determination to face off against the titan and his army one last time. It seems Cap “can do this all day” because he won’t surrender. But he is not the person to make the final sacrifice, that was Tony. It is not his arc that needs to finish with death. No one ever questioned Steve Roger’s altruism, so there was no need for him to prove it. So it was only fit for him to go back to his time and to experience the life he had lost because of his sacrifice. Even if it can be argued that time travel at the moment he goes back in time to return the stones is wonky, seeing Cap with Peggy Carter, his one true love, is what was meant to be from the get-go. The last scene of the movie fulfills the promise the hero gives to Peggy when he says “I'm gonna need a rain check on that dance” before being frozen. He always fought in Peggy’s name and ultimately returned to her to live a life as a family man, mirroring Tony Stark after the snap and passing on the name of Captain America to Sam Wilson, the Falcon.
Still, character arcs aside, the moment of the movie that is most satisfying to viewers is the final battle on Earth. When there is no more hope to Steve Rogers, Falcon appears through one of Doctor Strange’s light portals, which then teleports most of the leading MCU characters, the Wakandan soldiers, Ravagers and Earth’s sorcerers to the ruins of Avengers HQ, connecting the 22 movies in one place and time. Now, full of confidence and drive for war, Steve says the long-awaited phrase “Avengers… Assemble” as a grander and more eye-pleasing version of the Munich Airport clash in Civil War ensues. Tony and Pepper as Rescue have their moment together; Captain America uses Mjolnir for the second time after his worthy moment fighting against Thanos (best fan-service of the movie); Peter Parker gets a hug from Tony Stark; Captain Marvel destroys Thanos’ ship and is unhinged by a headbutt given by the villain; Scarlet Witch almost crushes Thanos with her sorrow because of Vision’s death; Ant-Man steps on Kull Obsidian; all the main female characters appear in a #girlpower A-Force movement similar to Infinity Wars’; Gamora kicks Star-Lord before he can kiss her as she is a past version of herself and doesn’t know him; Tony Stark snaps his finger. All of this and more can be seen in the most exciting, fulfilling, and euphoric scene Marvel Studios has ever crafted in its entire 11 years. It defines the pleasure of watching superhero movies from how it presents innovative character dynamics and layers of several emotions from bliss to catharsis, from the thrill of action to the heavy weight of somber events.
In the end, Avengers Endgame is a groundbreaking movie with as many moments of crying as there are for cheering; in Stan Lee’s immortal words, it was Excelsior! Now it is up to Marvel Studios and Kevin Feige to continue crafting movies that uphold the level of quality of MCU feature films but have their own identity and inspire individuals every day. Phase 4 movies are not officially confirmed, but media outlets have reported Black Widow prequel (probably) will happen together with Doctor Strange 2, Black Panther 2, The Eternals, Shang-Chi, and Guardians (Asgardians) of the Galaxy Vol.3 with Fat Thor. Disney Plus will also be developing MCU content, streaming Wanda/Vision, Falcon and the Winter Soldier, a Loki series, a Hawkeye and Kate Bishop show, and several other documentaries and animations. And with the Disney-Fox merger, the X-men and Fantastic Four are now available to enter the cinematic universe. For everyone still shaken by Endgame, there is hope for a new beginning. “ ‘Nuff said.”